Chris Folmsbee’s A New Kind of Youth Ministry

Yesterday I received in the mail Chris Folmsbee’s, A New Kind of Youth Ministry. As I was going to bed I set aside my Two Towers and reached for Folmsbee’s book. Now I’ve stopped reading youth ministry related material before I go to sleep for a reason…it gets me thinking. I absolutely loved the introduction to this book for two reasons: 1) Chris began to share his story which, had I known it years ago, would have resonated with me even then 2) I could still sleep after reading the intro.

Well that may sound like a shot but usually whant keeps me up is some technical explanation of youth ministry that does not depict any of my experiences in my 9 years of youth ministry. Of course it is possible to find some gems within these other books but often times I’m going, “God has done a GREAT work if that is what this book is about.”

This weekend I’m speaking at the Columbia Baptist Church High School Ski Retreat for my friend Chris‘ youth group. While I won’t be doing any skiing because of homework I hope to find some leisure time to work through Folmsbee’s book further. I’ve decided that I’ll try and blog through the book too. I’ve said I’d do this once before but put the book down two days after I posted saying I was going to do just that. This time it may be different. I love reading anything youth ministry related.

A short blurb about the intro: When I started in vocational youth ministry in 2000 at Memorial Baptist Church in Arlington, VA I was a new kind of Christian (a blue parakeet). I had just started participating in God’s story in an intentional way a year before and looked around and couldn’t for the life of me figure out the youth ministry scene. There was so much happening that was unsettling to me and made no sense at all. The four experiences I had as a teenager with youth ministry were only because of meaningful time an adult named Chris Meyers spent with me. That was it. That sent me on my journey of seeking after God.

Folmsbee takes us back a decade ago when he starts having these feelings that everything is not right in “Kansas” anymore. It is time to see if some adventurers in the story of God need to head a different direction. Chris shares a bit about being mentored by Tony Jones and the conversations they were having about postmodernism. In turn Chris writes that the church story he was participating in needed to be recultured.

This reculturing becomes strategic in the way he defines it (which is good in my opinion) but moves on to the more theological statement saying, “Reculturing is not a one-time deal. Instead, it is an ever-developing ethos of change that will allow us to effectively navigate the fluidity of our ministry contexts.” What I like about this is that it isn’t simply youth ministry related. It is whole Church related and individually related.

I’ve found that a good youth ministry book can speak to Church and “The Way” of Jesus as a whole, not just for youth ministry. Our lives should be and are continually transformed based on our context. The life of Christ frees us from becoming slaves to these changes but allows us to meld and participate and create amongst these times of change.

The last part of Chris’ introduction I’d like to share was his family’s sensitivity to where their path was diverging from his churches. He and his wife leave a church they fall in love with because they began to become a divisive force in the church. Now I’m sure this hurt a lot more than even came across in his writing (it was very hard for me to leave Memorial and that was on great terms) but I want to draw attention to his family response to the hurt.

It seems, though I could be wrong because I’ve only met Chris once, that he took a huge step in individual reculturation of individual life. Maybe I’m crazy but when you’re blazing a path on the leading of God, God wants you to have experience and memories that help make your story beautiful in the context in which your living. For Chris, he experienced reculturation in ministry to his core. He experienced it down to himself and his family. When I experience something at that level I seem to find peace in that same process if it ever happens again. It is for this reason that we need to read Chris’ book and help him lead in youth ministry while participating in his ministry.

Chris as a leader in the reculturation of youth ministry shares with his readers based on memory and experience. He has given of himself, beared a cross, been a sacrifice, and that is why his book will be valuable. It is a story many of us can and will participate in, not only as members of the Body of Christ, but as individuals. This simple story of his life qualifies him to be a leader along this path.

Often times I am thought of as a leader, and I believe I am, but many times I don’t feel like a leader in the reculturation process. I have done ministry the way I feel led to but have not had reculturation pinned to my soul. I can hold a lamp and lead that direction but I can’t understand the movement and texture of the path until I experience reculturation to my core. Chris knows the texture of the path and wants to share what it feels like. Let’s let him. His leading reminds me of a quote from Tolkiens Two Towers:

“Away now, Shadowfax! Run, greatheart, run as you have never run before! Now we are come to the lands where you were foaled, and every stone you know. Run now! Hope is in speed!”
– J.R.R. Tolkien in The Two Towers

One thought on “Chris Folmsbee’s A New Kind of Youth Ministry

  1. Josh says:

    Tom, you should forward this on to Chris, and let him know you are blogging it up, maybe he could stop by and comment too…


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